October 2, 2015
On the morning after another mass shooting at an American college, every other topic seems trivial. How do we concern ourselves at such a time about books or cultural trends or a new hominid found buried somewhere? The reality of periodic massacres in movie theaters and school campuses and other soft targets has become as much a part of our lives as rainstorms and traffic jams. Shocked TV commentators and political figures insist that we have to act to stop these events from recurring, after which nothing ever happens. We talk about keeping guns out of the hands of lunatics, but no one seems able to suggest how that can be accomplished.
This is a bit like the abortion issue. There is no way to devise a system that allows women to maintain control over their bodies while simultaneously avoiding the termination of fetuses. There is likewise no comfortable middle ground that will permit us to disarm unstable people while still respecting the second amendment. Sometimes we simply have to accept a cold reality: If we are to continue as a nation which has more guns than people, we are going to have to accept the periodic sacrifice of our children, and occasionally ourselves.
When I was working on Coming Home, I spent a fair amount of time trying to imagine what Earth might look like nine thousand years from now. I wanted a place from which ongoing stupidity had been eradicated. And I'm happy to say that, in Alex's time, the most grinding of our problems have been resolved. Crime is almost nonexistent. There are no religious fanatics running around. No lunatics. People who don't want to work don't have to. The world is united under a single government which, happily, shows no interest in sending in black helicopters. And, of course, Earth is part of a united group of worlds spread across the Orion Arm, with a government which does little other than provide assistance if needed.
Easy to say, right? So how did I solve all the world's problems? Well, I had millennia to manage it. Basically, what happened was that parents gradually became more responsible for their kids. And we succeeded in making a liberal education available to children around the globe. That came only after an era during which we had to sacrifice a lot of teachers, doctors, and lots of volunteers. But we succeeded in getting people to think for themselves rather than simply accept a set of dogma handed down from assorted authority figures. We worked hard to establish tolerance as one of the prime virtues. We don't have to agree on political or religious differences in order to be friends.
Eventually, the wildly unlikely concept of loving one's neighbor took hold. And most of the tension that exists in human society melted away.
Is it really possible those things could happen? Sure. It's called evolution. And, given time, it should take place. Given time. The trick is for us to avoid killing one another before we mature. Alex and Chase know how close we came to going the other way. But in their world, we made it. Let's make it happen in ours.
First step: Parents take hold. Encourage kids to think for themselves. Recognize ideas can be wrong. Pay attention to facts. Parents stay on the job. Let's not have any more mass killings in which the father turns up halfway across the country saying how he never could have believed his son could do such a thing. And maybe we should give more authority to our women. In case we haven't noticed, the person behind the gun is almost never a female.